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At no point in my life have I ever looked upon yard work with the same soft-focused, warm fuzzies that seem to inhabit many of my neighbors. They talk of string trimmers the same way I might describe a muscle car. For my part, I just want the least amount of hassle with the easiest care possible. Black & Decker sent me something that actually fits that bill in the 36v string trimmer. It cuts with the same grunt as a gas trimmer but without all the pulls, fuel mixing, and sore shoulders.

Before you assail me with righteous indignation, let me explain. No, the 36v LST136 is not as powerful as many of the gas-powered trimmers on the shelf today. Nor will it last as long at full tilt as a gas trimmer; this is true. What it can do as well and with the same or less hassle is trim the house and fence line and make sure the “project car” in the grass is all tidied up — on one charge and without help. We tested it on the highest setting and foot-tall grass, weeds, and all manner of roughage that had been growing for close to a month and it chopped it all fine.

On paper, the LST136 doesn’t miss much. There’s a 13-inch cut diameter that uses .065 diameter line and the battery features an LED counter with four indicator lights that represent 20 percent per light. This means that even when no light is visible there’s still a 20 percent charge left. When the 36v Li-ion battery is completely drained there’s only an hour of charge time to get it topped off. The curb weight winds up running close to 7 lbs. flat, which is a welcome statistic if you’ve ever lugged a heavier model around for any length of time.

Black & Decker says that on a fully charged battery, the unit should provide 25 mins. run time on regular speed or 8-10 mins. on the higher speed. There’s a also a chart on top of the handle that tells you basically the same thing: the higher the setting you run, the shorter the battery life will be. For our testing we were on setting “3” for around the house and “6” for the high weeds and grass. It lasted the entire way around the house and tackled the toughest weeds without missing a beat.

The trimmer obviously has all the assorted bells and whistles normally associated with electric string trimmers, such as a push button swivelhead and brace that turn the trimmer into edging mode. There’s also a telescoping feature built into the length of the pole that adjusts to any reasonably-sized user and helps in storage. The LST136 also isn’t a bump feed unit; it’s auto-feed. In fact, if you go around bumping it on the ground for more line, all you’ll end up doing is rat’s-nesting the feed spool.

We were just sure the LST136 was going to choke on tall grass and overgrowth, but it didn’t. We were positive that, like most of the battery-operated string trimmers out there, we’d run out of charge after about four feet of heavy work, but it plowed on. After the entire task even Toolmonger’s resident curmudgeon (my old man… who doesn’t like anything) said with grudging respect that the LST136 performed as well in basic yard applications (normal trimming and edging) as his Ryobi gas-powered unit.

As much as I hate yard work, this does the job around the homestead and makes short work of weeds if you move quickly and don’t linger on one spot and waste battery life. Is it worth $170 price tag? In some instances, like its intended suburban application, we’d say yes, completely worth it. If you’ve got a ranch to do or are a pro landscaper, no. Then again, if you’re already bought into the 36v Black & Decker system it’s a no-brainer. In any event, invest wisely and wait until your current rig packs up.

LST136 36v String Trimmer [Black & Decker]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


13 Responses to Hands-On: Black & Decker 36v String Trimmer

  1. aaron says:

    0.065″ is awfully thin. for me the crappy thing about low power units is their inability to handle thicker line, not necessarily how they cut through tough weeds. thinner line just gets eaten up quickly. can the feed holes be widened to accommodate thicker stock?

    • dave_c says:

      Keep in mind that if you increase the line diameter, then you decrease the length on the same sized spool, OR you have to increase the entire head dimensions and weight plus the line weight which is going to make run-time shorter.

      Can it be modified? I’d tend to think yes most people on this site are familiar with the tools that might be needed to do so though the picture seems to show a metal reinforcement ring that complicates that a bit. A random guess would be that the easiest way to enlarge that would be to heat the metal with a soldering iron only enough to soften the plastic around it then before it cools, use a compound action snap-on button (installation) tool to expand the metal ring to a larger diameter.

      You could try just dremeling or drilling it out instead but that metal ring probably isn’t very thick, maybe not thick enough to allow that. You’ll probably have to expand a hole in a plastic spool too, where the line is secured while it’s rewound to refill it. A drill is likely to suffice there.

      Personally, I wouldn’t bother, would leave the line at 0.065″ dia.

  2. Ambush27 says:

    Thinner line will probably mark painted fences and decks less, more important in this market if you ask me.

  3. MattC says:

    I am a firm believer in battery powered lawn tools. I have a Neuton mower and a B&D 18V cordless trimmer. Both work quite well in my 1/4 acre yard. In fact my mower has been able to mow 1/2 acre and still have some charge left. That being said, these tools are strictly for smaller than 1/2 acre areas. I realize that this is a limiting factors for many other homeowners with larger lawns or properties backed up to thick brush.

  4. Brau says:

    While I don’t doubt the stats claimed here, I’d really like to hear how much work it will still do at the end of the season when the batteries are no longer operating at peak. My experience of L-ion batteries is that they are great when new but performance drops rapidly with deep use. Then you have to ask yourself, “is buying (& disposing of) a new battery every year or two really a savings in any regard?”

    I do like the simple edging jig. I’ll be making one for mine.

  5. browndog77 says:

    I have an 18V Craftsman, and the thin line works fine for lawn & light weed trimming. I takes less torque to keep it spinning while cutting, so using thicker line in these tools would probably shorten cutting time/charge. These aren’t the tools to use for clearing river banks!

  6. Barks says:

    Pretty thin line and pretty short run time. No doubt it fits a niche somewhere between scissors and a Brush Hog–leaning towards the scissors end. $170 isn’t cheap, though.

  7. Jerry says:

    I picked up the 18 volt version a couple years back. Trimmer, 2 batteries and a “cheesy” charger- works fine though. I have about 1,500 sq ft of grass area. Note that I did not say “lawn.” I can cut down the whole area down to about 3″ height using the 2 batteries when the grass/weeds are about 8″-10″. The automatic line feed is pretty impressive and seems not to use excessive amounts of line. This smaller version has the edger device as well. I paid less than $100 for it and am pleased at how well it works for my needs.

  8. Joe says:

    I agree that the $170 is a bit steep, but I also like the thinner line; doesn’t show the accidental nicks like the thicker stuff.

  9. Girish Bhatt says:

    Sir plz send details Hands-On: Black & Decker 36v String Trimmer.

  10. browndog77 says:

    I got tired of my 18v craftsman trimmer having less than necessary umph, so today I did a frankentool and reamed out the plastic around the battery socket and converted to a 19.2v. Works like a champ, but I have to open it back up and reverse the polarity. It spins the wrong way!

  11. Keyinn Fu says:

    I bought a 36V trimmer last autumn. It is light and easy to operate. However, the battery is short lived. After just 8 mounth, the battery is gone and can not be recharged. I felt being cheated.

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